Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Harvard Business Review: "Bragging about being too busy"

Interesting article. I see it as taking a breath and a moment to pause before you pounce- to analyze 'why' before racing into a decision, to be deliberate and focused and to stay above the fray. There will always be more: to do, to buy, to achieve. How about just "enough"?

'The asset we’re overvaluing now is the notion of doing it all, having it all, achieving it all; what Jim Collins calls “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”'

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Final Scotland Journal post: Links to all blog posts

That's the end of another Trip blog! Here are links to each post from my Scotland 2014 trip. Thanks for reading :)

Scotland 2014 Journal

Scotland 2014 Day 12: Wrapup and Whisky List

Scotland 2014 Day 12: Wrapup and Whisky List

And... off we go! We checked out super early and got a cab. The trip to Edinburgh airport was quick, and after dropping off our checked luggage, I spent the time buying some more candy and snacks to take home to share with friends. The crazy amount of re-packing yesterday totally did the trick, my bag was only slightly overweight and they let it through just fine. Sweet.

We had breakfast and I sortof submitted my tax forms for a VAT rebate... well... maybe. It looked like you couldn't really get it on everything, just from stores that specifically gave you a VAT refund receipt (of which I had only one). Anyway, I stuffed everything in there just in case, since it would be a good hundred pounds at least back, potentally. Unlikely, but worth a shot!

The flight was great and nice to take one throughout the day. I watched Anchorman 2 which was kinda crazy but funny, and Thor 2 which was also pretty good. A clear "this is gonna be my next favourite movie" called "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was on there, but it looks so good that I don't want to spoil it by watching it on a tiny screen. That puppy needs surround sound and a glorious Blu-Ray HD experience!

I spent some time chatting with the couple beside me. The man spent 30 years in the Navy and fought in Vietnam. Poor guy had a stroke when he was 69, and told me "That was 15 years ago... I just pushed through it" as he made a strong arm fist and grinned. It was quite hard to understand him but he was keen to chat so I was trying hard to ask him questions that he wouldn't have too much trouble understanding. He told me at one point that he has a Port wine and a Dark Chocolate once per week "to keep the brains I've still got." They were a very sweet couple. He was from Chicago, but his wife was Scottish. They had gotten married in 1971, and I suspect she was a good 20 years younger than him. He seemed to have trouble putting sentences together but he was certainly keen to chat so I tried my best to converse. Poor fellow. But it was really quite humbling to see how he had such good humour and a good attitude about his situation. His wife was very nice as well and she helped out a lot. The staff on the plane kept walking by and grinning at the "sweet couple", as one stewardess put it. "That's your bride, isn't she?!" one of the nice stewardesses said when he told her about their wedding in Hawaii. Good times. That was sweet. :)

We arrived 7 hours later or so in Newark, and it was nice and quick. The transfer was quick between terminals, and turns out I was unfortunately in a different terminal than Heev so we couldn't hit up the United Lounge together again (I had coupons left so we could go in there!) I had an awesome tuna melt and then headed to the lounge. In my sweaty airplane-ride glory, I walked in and went straight to the shower area... which was AMAZING!!!!!! I have never done that before, but wow it sure rocked to shower in the middle of a 15 hr flight!!! That was probably the textbook definition of "refreshing"... wow! (Thank you, United Visa card) ;)

And then I showered in an airport!
I chilled out there for a bit, ate some snacks, and FaceTimed with my parents and texted with Spring. I am excited to head home! And can't wait to see my Spring :)


I got back to SF and unpacked all my stuff and here's a few photos of the fun stuff I bought for me and for gifts. Also, here's a list of all the new whiskies I tried on this trip! Michal had said when we were leaving, "Good luck on your Whisky adventure"... and both Matt and I thought, "Oh, no, this is a trip for hiking and exploring and nature and stuff, not just Whisky!" Well, turned out it kindof WAS a whisky adventure. More on that in a sec, but first here's some photos.

Sweet Bruichladdich shirt
Marks & Spencer's Tea
The big haul! Left to Right: Glenmorangie Ealanta, Edinburgh Elderflower Gin, Talisker 10, Talisker Distillers Edition, Talisker 57 Degrees North, Bruichladdich Sherry Classic, Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2nd Edition, Jura Diurach's Own
More tea!
Oh, so many treats
To take into work :)
Whisky Glassware
Bags from distilleries

Now here's the great Scotland 2014 trip WHISKY LIST!

Following the format Matt used on his Scotland blog, "Items in bold indicate whiskys I had never tried before."

And yes, while this might seem totally insane, many of these were small 5cl tastes and some of them we shared. But yes, we did get through a LOT.

May 8
  • Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky
May 9
  • Jura Diurach's Own
  • Caol Ila Distillers Edition 1998
May 10
  • Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Year Old, Heavily Peated
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Heavily Peated
  • Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009, Unpeated
  • Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006 2nd Edition, Kynagarry Farm, Achaba, Achfad Fields
  • Bruichladdich 25 Year Old 1989 (straight from the cask)
  • Bruichladdich Octomore 2002 12 Year Old "Beta Edition" (straight from the cask)
  • Bruichladdich Cuvee 407 PX, La Noche Bocca Arriba
May 11
  • Ardbeg Blasda
  • Ardbeg 10 Year Old
  • Ardbeg Alligator
  • Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • Ardbeg Uigeadail
  • Laphroig Triple Wood
  • Laphroig 18 Year Old
  • Laphroig Select
  • Laphroig Quarter Cask
May 12
  • Glen Moray Classic Single Malt
  • Bruichladdich Octomore 2002 12 Year Old "Beta Edition"
  • Highland Park 12 Year Old
  • Dalmore 15 Year Old
  • Cragganmore 12 Year Old (taste)
May 14
  • Dew of Ben Nevis
May 15
  • Talisker 10 Year Old
  • Talisker Distillers Edition
  • Talisker 12 Year Old, Friends of Classic Malts Edition
May 16
  • Glenmorangie 25 Year Old
  • Glenmorangie Signet
  • Glenmorangie 10 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis Glen Coe 8 Year Old Cask Strength
  • Dew of Ben Nevis
May 17
  • Talisker 10 Year Old
  • Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Jura Origin
  • Talisker Port Ruighe
  • Glendronach 15, Sherry Finish
May 18
  • Bowmore 12 Year Old
  • Dalmore Cigar Malt (taste)
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Year Old, Heavily Peated
May 19
  • Talisker Dark Storm

My FAVOURITE? Well, it's really hard to say. I did love the Glenmorangie 25 and Glenmorangie Signet, obviously. The Talisker Port Ruighe and Talisker Distillers Edition rocked, as well as the Bruichladdich Cuvee 407. Black Bottle was surprisingly awesome and a steal at $25-ish in the US. I definitely feel like I (as Matt also said) expanded my knowledge of whisky and my palette a lot. In the past I've shied away from very peaty whiskies like you find on Islay, but I must say I've found a new appreciation for them.

Easier than calling out one specific favourite, the most surprising and impressive distillery by far was Bruichladdich. They have an unbelievable range and creativity, as seen in their odd whisky concoctions as well as their incredible distillery tour. I was the most impressed by them, getting a very distinct "Visual Effects/Animation Studio" vibe from them -- they are odd, creative, and intensely weird, they know it, but they do their job and they do it better or as well as just about anyone else, and they are damn proud. It was an awesome vibe.

Laphroaig's Quarter Cask came out my major winner of the Laphroaig choices by a longshot. I had expected to like Triple Wood as it's "born" from Quarter Cask, in a way, but I didn't really love it.

Caol Ila and Bowmore were great although we didn't have much of either. It's nice to have an Islay whisky but not have it blow your socks off like Ardbeg always does. That said, I did enjoy Ardbeg Corryvrecken, though next time I'm gonna cut it with some water.

I also decided that I am definitely a big fan of sherry finishing. When trying Talisker 10 and comparing to the Distiller's Edition, it became quite clear that I am a big sherry fan. My love of Glenmorangie LaSanta confirms that. I do think it can go too far though, as evident in the Glendronach 15, Sherry Finish... nice, but so overblown with too much sherry, at least for my taste.

What an incredible trip, what an amazing time with my best buddy... exploring the world and enjoying every moment to the very most. And looking at this absurd list of whiskies, I'm glad we managed to get some hiking and biking in there amidst all the glorious drams.

"Sláinte" - to your health! I'm certainly off to go drink a lot of water and eat some organic vegetables for a month.

-Mike Jutan :)

Scotland 2014 Day 11: Edinburgh

Scotland 2014 Day 11: Edinburgh

The blind in our hostel room only closed most of the way, so it was a little open and a little bright at the grand old hour of 7:45am, so we got up and figured we may as well just get to it. It's a Sunday, so the shops were not open yet, so we decided to go check out Edinburgh Castle.

Impromptu march
Walking towards Edinburgh Castle
From the castle, there were some great views of the city, that spiky tower thing, "my" cool Art-Deco building, and the general gloriousness of Edinburgh. We walked inside the castle for a bit, saw the "Crown Jewels" (heh heh-- but seriously, they were cool) and then saw a very knight-y room filled with armor and lots of swords.

View from Edinburgh Castle
My favourite building again on the right
Enter the swordroom
This place is armoured-up!
Don't sword me, bro
Don't want to be on the wrong end of one of these
Sweet gun clock, bro
From there it was off to the Scotch Whisky Experience to see what the deal was there. We didn't end up going in on their "whisky barrel ride" ride, but they did have a pretty impressive selection in the shop, including some weird and impossible-to-find stuff. We figured our entire trip in Scotland was "The Scotch Whisky Experience" so we figured we'd learned "on the road" as it were.

At the Scotch Whisky Experience... holy moly
From there we wandered the city some more, and ended up back in new town to have tea at E-ticket - I meant "Eteaket". :) It was a tasty scone, and the clotted cream/double devonshire cream was REALLY good. Man, the UK rocks so hard at milk products! I chose the Scottish "Breakfast Blend" tea which was good, but wasn't quite as Lapsang Souchong-y as I had expected! I've only tried Scottish Breakfast once before and it was a bit smoky, so maybe they have different definitions of what a "Scottish Breakfast" tea is! Anyhow, amazing times, and really great to just chill out and have some tea.

It's tea time!
Hilarious Britishy poster #1
Hilarious Britishy poster #2
Hilarious Britishy poster #3
We walked around more in New Town and then back to Old Town so Matt could get a pig sandwich at a place called "Oink" that was clearly not the most kosher of shops. While Matt was chowing down, I started to look through all of the "Batboy" artwork and cards at the art store we saw yesterday. It was really funny and I loved all the artwork and decided to get a print for me and a card for Frank and Jess.

Wow that is Scottish
Matt eating some pig
The best purchase of the trip
Also, I got a kilt towel.
Back to the hostel we went and I unpacked EVERYTHING and went on a massive throw-out of anything I didn't need -- wrappers, receipts, paper, maps, containers, extra granola bars... the whole thing. The aim was to attempt to get my suitcase adequately re-packed and to load up my backpack and a carry-bag for the plane for tomorrow so that I didn't have to pay the exorbitant $100 overweight bag fee! It took a good hour and a half to fully re-organize everything and also to carefully pack my whisky bottles in padded carrying holders I'd brought specifically for this. I was so psyched we did this earlier in the afternoon instead of leaving it too late... I told Heev afterwards, repeatedly, that this was the "BEST thing we did all day!" It worked out really well, and apparently I've bought a LOT of snacks and food... that carry-on bag was probably almost 10 lbs! My suitcase was finally feeling reasonable, and I was mentally ready to head to the airport the next morning, so we headed back out to do some more random exploring.

Royal Mile Whiskies was our favourite shop!
Inside Royal Mile Whiskies
Wow some old Glenmorangie
All the Octomores!
Crazy Laphroaigs too
We went back to our favourite shop, Royal Mile Whiskies, just to hang out :) There was another spot down the road where I saw a Glenmorangie in a ceramic bottle... wicked. They also had EVERY Octomore... well... except for our special Octomore "Beta Edition" that we tried at the distillery! They also had weird Laphroaig's of all kinds there.

We wandered more, and got an excellent Kebab for dinner, and sat down to eat it and people-watch a bit. From there we went back to the hostel again, and had another of the excellent Passionfruit & apple ciders from New Zealand at the hostel cafe. Heev and I chilled there for a bit and chatted about how well the trip went, and made a list of every single whisky we had tried (many of them just tastes, but still it was a staggeringly large amount!)

Back at the hostel, this Cider from NZ rocked: "Making fruit more useful since 1947"
Awesome backpacker's cafe
Cool Nessie drawing and stairs up to "treehouse"
We then decided to take another neighbourhood wander, and we walked the other way this time, more into the old town direction instead of down the hill back to new town. This was a great idea, as we walked right through the University of Edinburgh. It was super green, and just a really nice, long walk. I found a grocery store at some point and got some more sweets to take home, and also found another random fish and chip shop and got some more chips... naturally! That was funny as they had vinegar in a spray bottle, and they used that to spread vinegar out on the chips. Haha. Tasty.

Taking a walk in University of Edinburgh's gardens
Goodnight, Edinburgh!
We walked for a while and ended up in new town again, and so we took some nice photos of the castle and then headed back to the hostel. But first... a quick last stop at Bow Bar again. :)

What an awesome trip. We had no 2nd roommates tonight, so just our own room tonight for next-to-nothing. Score.

Scotland 2014 Day 10: Off to Edinburgh

Scotland 2014 Day 10: Off to Edinburgh

Heev and I got up way earlier than planned and walked into bustling downtown Inverness to do what any reasonable person should do at 8am: eat a piping hot cornish pasty. I got a cheese and onion thing that was literally awesome. From there, it was off to a reasonably large-sized Marks and Spencers to pick up some gifts.

Chill area at the Bazpackers Hostel
Breakfast time!
Salmon parcel, anyone?
I want to eat it all.
Anything that starts with the phrase "A Dignified..." or "A Right Royal..." is hereby crowned "forever British"
Awesome shortbread
M&S had awesome tea and also some Lavender Shortbread for Mom so I picked up some nice gifts, and some more yoghurt, of course! The mall soon opened and we wandered into Boots where I finally found the 'ol-school Lynx Africa After Shave from my youth. :) Next up was the Victorian Market, a random place with lots of different small shops, kindof weird but we found a few cool things also for gifts.

"Taps Oan"
Bagpiper's supply shop
Sweet shades, bro
Then we walked into an AWESOME gift shop, which was really quite perfect. We had walked past it the night before and it really seemed awesome... and oh my, it was. I got most of the gifts I was still planning to get and things I wanted for myself, all in one shop: a cashmere scarf for Springs, the hilarious/ridiculous "kilt towel", the Scotland Flag boxers, and a packaged-up Clootie Dumpling to take home!!!! I had a hilarious and mildly inappropriate conversation with the lady in the shop, when I asked if the boxers ran a bit small because they only had a larger size. She said, "Well, I think they really hug in... but it depends who you are, I suppose! They certainly hug in on my husband!" Then she proceeded to tell me it was OK for her to mention this because they'd be married for 30 years (and I suppose that means all decorum is out the window) hahaha. So I didn't expect to be talking about her husband's fit in these Scotland flag boxers, but I guess I got the information I needed about them running a tad small. Haha.

As usual, Heev and I were seeking out more whisky shops, and we found a branch of "The Whisky Shop" where there were lots of sample sizes which Heev was really psyched about. I got a bottle of the Jura Diurach's Own. Then we went into a smaller shop and got a sampler size of a Bruichladdich Sherry special edition.

I want to "Gu" there!
Yes, I had to eat at a foreign McDonald's. The burger was called "Chicken LEGEND!"
Next stop was the first and only McDonald's of the trip. Everyone who knows me knows I love seeing how McDonald's localizes in foreign countries, and it was kindof hilarious here in Scotland. They had a "Tastes of America" menu, with lots of random stuff like "Louisiana Chicken" and other kinds of "BBQ" burgers. I got some weird one called "Chicken Legend" with tomato salsa, completely and only because of its name. (No, no... YOU'RE a LEGEND).

Back to the car and then we took off for Edinburgh, our last stop of the trip! The drive was about 2.5 hours, but went quickly (because I napped in the car). We saw some of the Cairngorns national park and it looked nice, but we were keen to just book it into Edinburgh and spend a good part of the afternoon there since we decided to skip Speyside. This area was pretty scenic, and Perthshire area looked quite nice. We arrived in Edinburgh about 2:30, filled up the car with gas, and dropped it off. Our grand total for the 10-day driving trip: 1302.4 MILES!! We unpacked all of our stuff in the parking lot of the rental car place, checked the car twice to make sure we didn't leave anything in there, and then proceeded to immediately leave with my iPhone GPS mount still stuck to the windshield. Oh well. :)

Goodbye, Ford CMax!
Into Edinburgh City Centre we went by bus and that was pretty quick and easy. We got out and saw a really crazy gothic spire which was pretty Batman-y and pretty nuts. Definitely the lair of some epic criminal mastermind! We walked up and around a few hills and then got to our youth hostel, the not-very-creatively named "Budget Backpackers", which was intensely well-organized and excellently rated online. We checked in, got keys, and dropped our stuff. We are staying in a 4-room and it's in the building across the road from the main hangout area, so hopefully that means we'll be away from any major noise.

We unpacked a bit and specifically unpacked all of our whisky into the lockers in the room... MAN that's a lot of whisky! Hopefully I can repack successfully and not have my bag be totally overweight at the airport! It's a 4-share room as I mentioned, and it looks like we do have roommates tonight at least. They appeared to be girls, given the shoes that were on the floor, so I guess generally that means it "should" be cleaner and not too loud... there were some half-empty wine bottles though strewn around.. so I guess we'll see!

Now without tons of luggage, we ventured out into the city. We wandered for a while, and got an idea of how Edinburgh new and old town are laid out. Just outside of our hostel was an art store which had a crazy print of a character called "Batboy" and "Robbie", a silly, Scottish-ified Batman and Robin! Even more absurdly hilarious was that there was one of them with their shirts off, that said "Taps Aff"!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh man!!! This is literally a week after our buddy Robin Mackenzie who we met on the ferry to Islay with his wife told us a potentially off-colour joke where the punchline was "taps aff". We thought it might be something related to taking one's shirt off, but we had no idea. Turns out... that's exactly what it was, and this hilarious art piece confirmed Robin's cheeky joke that he totally said in front of his wife. Incredible.

"Taps Aff!" - and now we know that our mate from last week told a cheeky joke
I am thoroughly in-"spired"
This building rocks
In Edinburgh, even the post is fancy
Lots of unusual Ardbeg and Laphroaigs!
I unsuccessfully tried on some funny Scottish hats and still didn't see anything that looked as good as the Ardbeg one from last week. We wandered by a tea shop called "Eteaket" (which I read as "E-ticket", not the correct pun. As Heev pointed out, it was supposed to be "Etiquette"... right.) That place seemed nice and we'll check it out tomorrow in more detail.

We checked out a whisky shop, naturally. They had some OLD stuff... a 1963 22-year Glenmorangie?! Crazy. Royal Mile Whiskies was the best shop of all the places we went into. They had tons of small samples, including a 20cl Diurach's Own... darn! I would have bought a smaller one if I knew you could do that. Oh well, I'm sure Frank can help me put it to good use when I am back in SF. :) The shop called "The Whisky Shop" wasn't nearly as good, and was more expensive and didn't have as good selection or as helpful or nice staff.

We Yelp'd a spot for dinner and found a place called "The Outsider". It said "British" on the Yelp review but it was mostly just a really nice spot with tasty local ingredients! I got a flatiron stead with great potatoes -- kindof like the ones I make! The steak was very tasty. Heev got a duck leg, and it tasted like a roast.

Dinnertime! Hot smoked salmon
Matt's dinner, complete with a HUGE onion
After a really great meal and a nice sit-down and relax, Matt googled for a good place for "real ales" (i.e. warm, flat beer... haha) and he found a recommendation on the "Camra" site for a place called Bow Bar, just around the corner from our hostel! They had some great Real Ale for Matt and also, yep, you guessed it, an excellent Whisky selection!

It was a good atmosphere there, being that it was "World Whisky Day!" I tried a couple of new things, and tweeted about our "Whisky Experience" for World Whisky Day to try to win a prize (presumably, more whisky).

It's World Whisky Day!
A wee dram!
Back to the hostel we went, and we chilled for a while in the main game room area. Heev and I played a somewhat terrible game of pool, and afterwards checked out this cool lit-up pad area, couches, and a "tree house" TV area. I had an excellent and super cheap NZ cider at the bar and chatted with tons of Australians -- all of them staff, it appeared.

Budget Backpackers has another mediocrely-named-yet-amazing hostel called "Kick Ass Backpackers" down the road. It was brand new in March but they were booked up fully for tonight so we opted to stay at Budget Backpackers instead. The new spot was pretty darn cool (or, "kick ass", as it were). They had really beautifully-done signage, great artistic design and super clear for foreign travelers. It rocked. They had a cool handout area as well with air hockey and some video games. We heard random party noise coming from somewhere and a person who worked there told us they had several "ensuite" rooms, complete with balconies! Fancy stuff for something like £12 a night!

Crazy hostel
Awesome "tree house" in the hostel
Checking out the sister hostel down the road, awesome new spot
We wandered some more in the city for fun and to explore. At some point we stopped for Fish and Chips, naturally! It came with some kind of thing called "Brown Sauce", which one would assume was a kind of gravy, but it tasted mostly like vinegar. Anyway, good times!

Ahh, late nite Fish and Chips

We headed back to the hostel and went to bed at 2-something. Soon after, our roommate #1 of 2 came in, reasonably and quietly. A little while later, roommate #2 arrived and made a hell of a commotion!! She was super loud, clearly forgot her key and was banging on the door to get her friend to open it up. (Ugh) Haha. Oh, the luck of the draw with your roommates in hostels. :) There was literally no chance I was going to get off a top-bunk and open the door for her, and her friend was on a top bunk too... after a moment roommate #1 opened the door and then went immediately back to sleep while roommate #2 continued to be a bit loud and then left, and didn't come back till we were gone the next morning. Oh well. Anyway, that was random. A good sleep anyway!